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Article updated: 2/12/2013 11:30 PM

Panel debates Naperville voter district referendum

By Justin Kmitch

A DuPage County circuit judge is a little more than a week away from ruling whether a controversial Naperville referendum question can remain on the ballot.

But that didn't stop Naperville residents from discussing the pros and cons of a proposed referendum to overturn a 2010 measure approved by voters that ordered the city to move toward a combination of at-large and district representation by 2015.

The Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation hosted a voters' forum Tuesday night to discuss the ballot question posed by a group of citizens called "Yes! At Large." The proposed question asks "Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?"

Just a little more than two years ago, about 66 percent of voters in a 2010 referendum called for the city to switch to a system that includes a mix of district and at-large representation. As it stands now, beginning in 2015, five city councilmen will be elected from districts, and three councilmen and the mayor will be elected at-large.

"Yes! At Large" Co-chairman Dean Reschke said his group fears voters approved the measure without much discussion, and that implementation of such a system would result in various degrees of "horse-trading for votes"

and "deviousness" on the council.

"Our group supports giving all citizens an equal chance to run for city council and all voters an equal chance to vote for or against city council candidates," Reschke said. "We believe, and have experienced, that leadership that is focused on what is in the best interest of the whole has been instrumental in the amazing development of Naperville and the quality of life we enjoy."

Ed Rivas, a spokesman for the Naperville Voter Education League, which organized the 2010 referendum, said his organization believes the 2010 measure was widely publicized in the city and the district system should be implemented and observed for "six or eight years" before any decisions are made and the system is undone.

"If this was a scenario where the vote was close, or just a couple thousand apart, I could understand the justification of wanting to put the referendum on the 2013 ballot to reverse it," Rivas said. "But this wasn't close."

While the group did not take an official stance regarding districts, Rivas said he is in favor of the hybrid system because of how much the city has grown.

"For someone who lives north of Ogden Avenue, the south end, to some people, is near Kentucky," Rivas said. "But as a Napervillian, I believe it is important that every citizen has a representative on the city council."

DuPage County Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton is expected to rule on the question's fate Feb. 22.

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